Consumer Buying Behavior – Digital Vs the Real World

By Mehreen Siddiqua , Apr 15 2016
Consumer Buying Behavior

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Customer is and will always be the king! Marketers believe that and design strategies to satisfy and/or delight him. The idea is gaining momentum and recognition in today’s world when the consumer is in a state of transition after technology disruption changes our approach to shopping. We will explore consumer behavior in digital vs real world and see how they are transforming.

Are brands more valuable in the online world or in traditional supermarkets? A question that can never be answered without understanding the consumer online purchase behavior relative to consumers shopping in a traditional store. Besides discussing the obvious contrast, we will also shed some light on how shopping behavior is in a transition post digitalization. The way consumers use technology to communicate with brands is changing. As a result we have to understand a new breed of fragmented consumer that interacts with both traditional and digital platforms.

Online vs Traditional Shopping

The traditional shopping involves you going to the streets or markets and decide whether to buy or not by using our senses. All the goods in the stores are visible to customers. Several factors affect the way search, sell and shop in the real world. The first thing that comes into play is the location. A consumer must be physically present in your store to be able to make a purchase.

Contrary to this method, online shopping depends on the Internet but that too has evolved to mobile shopping. You can find many shopping websites such as Taobao and Amazon and e-carts to buy what you need without going out. The product information is relayed to the user through the pictures or descriptions while price in on-line shopping is much lower than traditional shopping. Check out the crux of the difference from this excerpt.

Consumers don’t get the variety in consumption that shopping in the physical store provides. This is the reason, after a while, that consumers need to go shopping at the supermarket to get inspiration for more variety and to try new products. Simulation deficiency on the internet is rather a difficult challenge to overcome at present. Further improvements of hardware and software enabling the reproduction of the physical store should be helpful. With a mirror model of the physical store, “as real as the store,” consumers should regain much of the inspiration provided by the brick-and-mortar store.

Global E-Commerce and Online Marketing: Watching the Evolution

Efforts are underway to improve user experience for the web and use algorithms to make it more convenient and responsive to consumer needs. Moreover, a marketer needs to understand the milestones to consumer buying behavior to understand the types of users and their reactions to different types of campaigns.

online shopping

The above mentioned difference explains the theoretical but in the real world, any given consumer with access to technology is in a state of transition. Well this implies that a user stays updated about gadgets or portable devices online might prefer to visit the furniture store if he wants to get a rack. Despite being a tech-savvy, this consumer is not totally detached from the real world.

Centaur – The Hybrid Consumer

In simple words a Centaur can be defined as a combination of traditional and digital, rational and emotional, virtual and physical being. Instead of studying the consumer in an either/or approach, the focus will be to study the convergence. When the digital world has permeated almost every aspect of our lives. It has certainly changed the way we communicate and interact with our surroundings. We are in a state of transition from the real world to the virtual world but not quite there yet. Now to understand the buying behavior resulting from this convergence check out the classification of hybrid consumer.


How They Behave?

An average user today is more educated than he was 5 years back. It’s not easy to persuade a centaur but you can get him/her to talk. Engaging them more frequently and effectively can set them in motion and that’s the first step for brands to get the desired results. Here’s you will see them act.

The Consumers Will Have More Sophisticated Queries

Most of the ecommerce and online shopping platforms have evolved over the years and this has enabled the users to become very specific in their search queries. The more specific they are, the easier it will be to come close to the exact product or answer they are looking for. Now this search behavior has refined in a span of less than 10 years. For example the search query “leather jackets” will display a generic set of results which is not exactly how the user wanted it. A specific query on the other hand would look something like this: “Denim leather jackets in New Jersey”. It is a consumer insight that marketers can leverage. Check out how they can apply this insight!

What Marketers Can Do?

If we think about it, the user has actually simplified it for the marketers. With the use of long-tail keywords in their content, marketers can rank in search engines and get picked in search results. Check out additional facts to get an understanding of user search patterns online.

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Consumers Want All Things Visual

Visuals create instant recognition in the minds of the user. Where words fail to communicate, smart imagery conveys the message irrespective of language barriers. When the consumer is on about to take a purchase decision for any product, he/she will try to verify the features and specs through imagery instead of searching through the data that is usually bombarded towards customers. They seek simplicity and images are the perfect short-hand. Visuals capture attention and create engagement which is why platforms like Pinterest and Instagram are a hit these days. Here’s how marketers can use this to their advantage

Consumers Want All Things Visual
What Marketers Can Do?

If your users comprehend visuals faster than text, you are certainly in luck. So this means less text and more visuals. They can focus their marketing campaigns around visuals to communicate a message. With the art of visual marketing, you can create a visual scene that draws attention, and triggers action from the consumer. This happens because we are visually wired and would like to see things through our own lens to believe anything.

visually wired

Consumers Rely On Other’s Opinion

Images are the first cue that enable your consumer to create a perception in his mind but the purchase decision yet to be made. That comes through validation and for that most consumers rely on reviews and recommendation from other users who have somehow been associated with the product. So how does that help marketers

What Marketers Can Do?

This is where marketers realize the strong worth of word of mouth marketing. Knowing that the consumers cannot be tricked with self-praise, brands now have to rely on influencers or credible bloggers whose word is not taken lightly in the market. Once you get them to write reviews, it will generate a chain of customer reviews and user feedback. The first step is to get them to try. Customer reviews for business marketing is an excellent strategy to use consumer insights to understand their search and buying patterns.

Consumers Dig For Facts

The consumer of the digital age can never be attracted to pure marketing spin. He will dig for authentic facts and will easily switch if he can’t make sense of the facts presented. Perhaps, this is the stage when most users have been through the social networks and review platforms and now they want quick details. What’s your strategy going to be?

What Marketers Can Do?

Consider a scenario: you have created a stir with your viral marketing campaign and now visitors are pouring in. It might appear to be an ideal situation but it is not the time to sit back and relax. You need to provide the user with the relevant information in digestible chunks. This can involve podcasts or videos to spare the user the effort of reading.

Consumers Want To Experience

The notion that customer involvement with any brand is circumstance-driven is getting outdated. From a consumer’s perspective, any purchase is not just meant to avail the utilitarian aspect of the product. Besides the product’s functionality, the user wants to see the product’s contribution to the construction of their own identity. Here’s how marketers can utilize this insight.

“The experiential consumer: Postmodern consumers live in a dynamic and fragmented society, that is overwhelmed with information and accelerated by the pace of innovation. Products are used by them to build a sense of “self”, a social image that defines their role within society.”

Consumer Behavior in Action: Real-life Applications for Marketing Managers
By Geoffrey Paul Lantos

What Marketers Can Do?

An average consumer flow comprises of Awareness, Evaluation, Purchase, Usage, repurchase and advocacy stages. Smart marketing strategies might take the customer to the usage stage but with brand tour, micromoments and personalized touch, you can take the customer all the way to advocacy. Customer focus or customer advocacy will help you get into the hearts and minds of the customer. Check out how you can create customer centricity in this video:

Consumers Are Price Sensitive

As a general belief, the buying power of an average consumer has increased yet the consumer is price sensitive. An individual is perhaps willing to pay a premium price on perceived value but are ready to go an extra mile to check if a product is worth it. This doesn’t mean that price never mattered before. The only difference in digital age is that the consumer has the means to find out if a product is worth the price. So how can we attract price sensitive customers?

What Marketers Can Do?

We are going beyond the modern age towards experiential post-modern era where value is created not during the production but in the stage of consumption. For example, Starbucks is not just a coffee, it’s a lifestyle. They have a welcoming ambience and coffee served in huge mugs with free access to wifi. The idea is to provide a satisfying environment.



Technology has molded our choices and preferences and hence the way we look at life. While the consumer is still in a state of transition, the broad segments of generation Y and Z might emerge as the first dedicated consumers of the digital world. If the marketers have to target their future prospects, they have to understand source of origin of their needs.

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My spirit lies in the distant past that I never saw with my own eyes but wish to reveal it to the world there is wisdom in the old adage. My heart lies in a future that is filled with imaginative art, technological advancements and scientific discovery in tomorrow-land. In my present, I want to bring about positive change through simple innovative ideas for businesses, brands, visual graphic designers and the world community at large.


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